“I think you’ll find our request to be more important than a soap opera,” said Rob.
“You say that with such indifference, but Giselle came back from the dead again. This is serious business!” said Bora.
“Dude, calm down. You’re on speakerphone.”
“Is Kate Beckinsale standing nearby?”
“Then it matters not.” It then sounded as though Bora held the phone away from himself for a moment, and he shut off his television using voice command. After bringing the phone back to his ear he said, “What can I do for you fellows?”
Andrew tucked the model of the panther-like Deaf Prowler under his arm and walked up to the speaker. “We’re in need of a man with an accordion,” he said.
“Accordion? This must be a big job.”
Indeed, though there were those who scoffed at it, the accordion was one of the most powerful instruments known to musiciankind (along with the ukulele and kazoo). More than once had Bora’s accordion been used to get Tally Hall out of a bind. One such incident was when Joe, Rob, and Zubin’s singing had attracted some Deafcaps. Not only was Bora able to singlehandedly ward off the aliens with his accordion, but he was also able to soothe everyone’s posttraumatic stress from the ordeal by playing a polka ditty.
“Put me on a projector,” Bora said, and Rob consented, finding a port on Coz’s keyboard to place his jPhone. As it clicked into place, light rays from the phone’s small screen scurried together to form the hologram of Bora Karaca, a man around the same age as the Tallies who had dark curly hair, five-o-clock shadow, and some kind of visual impairment. He was taking a pair of thick-rimmed glasses out of his shirt pocket as he simultaneously put his own jPhone into a hologram port.
“This is about Casey isn’t it?” he said casually once his glasses were on.
“How did you — ?”
“Don’t ever doubt my ability to find things out,” Bora said darkly.
Andrew crossed his arms in an unimpressed manner — the manner in which keyboardists tend to react to everything other musicians say. “Are we the only ones ever in the dark about these things?” he said.
“It’s not that we’re in the dark,” said Joe. “It’s just that everyone else is in the light.” (Joe was very philosophical, i.e. a lot of the things he said were confusing.) “Speaking of which,” Joe continued, “I’ll just bet Al knows what we’re doing this very minute, and it won’t be long ‘til he takes a teleporter here to stop us.”
“Ew, I hate teleporters,” said Bora. “I prefer planes.”
“Yeah,” Coz said, “always comfortable.”
“Don’t encourage him,” said Zubin, suddenly straightening himself up in his seat. “We had to suck it up and teleport here. Don’t you dare take a plane.”
“You know, Zubin,” Bora said as his hologram strolled around the room, “you can be a real jerk when you haven’t had your coffee.”
“I did have my coffee.”
“Did I say coffee? What I meant to say was you can be a real jerk when you breathe.”
“Just around friends,” Zubin said, relaxing back into a slumped posture and not worried at all about getting a bad back later in life. “I only insult the people I really like or the people I can’t stand. You guys are on the positive end of the spectrum. Most of the time,” he added under his breath.
“Oh, I feel so honored,” Andrew said in a monotone. “I’m just drowning in your ocean of brotherly love.”
“That’s nice, Horowitz — ”
“Drowning,” Andrew went on, “as in death by submersion in liquid.”
“Speaking of death,” Coz interjected, again grabbing everyone’s attention by being blunt as a month-old razor, “we need to help Casey before anything happens to him.”
“We?” said Rob. He tucked Casey’s message in his pocket and sighed. “Coz, I’m sorry, but you can’t come with us. We know you’re a keyboardist and all, but the Music Industry has regulations. It’s difficult enough bringing Bora without him being registered as a band member.”
“It is not difficult in the slightest,” said Bora, which prompted Ross to jab the jPhone’s mute button like an ugly mosquito. The other band members had seen this flyswatter imitation, but they said nothing. The last thing they wanted to bring with them on such a dangerous mission — besides an adorable little chinchilla — was one their fans.
Now, it wasn’t unheard of for a band to bring a fan with them on a mission. In fact, Tally Hall did this more than most other bands would. It looked unprofessional, but with ninety-nine percent of their fans being able to play at least one musical instrument and with Deafcaps roaming around like free-range chickens…well, why not?
But this mission would be a perilous one, and there was a big difference between bringing a fan and bringing in someone like Bora. Bora was a professional. More importantly, he had signed a pretty piece of paper. This particular pretty piece of paper that Bora had signed for Tally Hall said, in essence, “If I am attacked by an alien on one of your band’s missions, I solemnly swear that neither I nor my family will sue you for your mortal soul.”
Of course, Coz was also trained in the Music Industry, and he probably wouldn’t have been averse to signing some kind of contract. Really the reason why Tally Hall was unwilling to bring him was because the band only had one extra tie, for Bora, and it wouldn’t look right if they had a party member who wasn’t wearing one.
“You know,” said Coz, who was facing away from Bora and completely oblivious to his frantic hand waving, “I don’t have to actually go with you guys to help.”
“Holograms aren’t a good idea either,” said Rob. “Sure, your Sound Waves will be able to get to the Deafcaps, but then theirs will be able to get to you. We can’t risk that.”
“I mean there are things I can do from here at the base,” Coz offered.
Without waiting for another rebuttal, he leaned over Zubin’s slumped shoulder and tapped a few buttons on the keyboard. On the massive screen before them, the 3-D map of the world twisted and turned in correlation with Coz’s finger movements. The next instant had the map protruding out of the screen as a globe-shaped hologram, looking like a large man’s stomach after a long day in the buffet line.
Once removed from the screen, it zoomed around the left side of the keyboard, passing through Bora’s hologram and making him flinch as their pixels clashed. The globe hologram minimized just before sliding into a frame propped up on the keyboard, right next to where Joe was leaning his elbow.
He looked upon the frame with curiosity as Coz plucked it from the keyboard and held it at arm’s length. The little globe spun like a carousel within the boundaries of the frame, and Andrew instantly felt an insatiable desire to poke it.
“With this,” Coz said while tactfully keeping the frame out of Andrew’s reach, “I can keep track of y’all and direct you to Casey’s exact location.” He paused to zoom the screen in on America, then Pennsylvania, and finally Glenside. “That is, if you don’t see any danger in it.”
Rob rubbed his chin and considered any accidents that could occur with such an arrangement. The worst possibility was Coz getting carpal tunnel from moving the map around, which would mean they wouldn’t have anyone to answer fan questions. That didn’t sound so bad to Rob, though. They could always con Ross into doing it.
“It certainly would be helpful,” Rob said finally. “You wouldn’t mind doing that?”
“I’m here to help. That’s what people in fan bases are paid to do after all.”
Rob looked guilty. “But you’re not being paid.”
“I know. I just wanted to hear you say it.” And with that, Coz turned and walked out of the room with his handheld computer screen.
As he walked into one of the foyer’s adjacent rooms and his footsteps died away, everyone left standing in the monitor room looked to one another for what to do next, except Andrew, who returned his attention to the Deafcap models.
“Great, so we have a means of tracing Casey when we do this thing,” Joe said to the others. “We should have codenames for this.”
“Right, I’ll be Gray,” Ross said dryly. “You can be Red. Zubin’s Blue…”
“Your vat of creativity astounds me.”
Meanwhile, Bora had stopped silently mouthing at the others and began instead to use violent hand motions to get their attention. Zubin stared with a vacant expression at the jPhone’s mute button as Bora frantically pointed at it. Growing weary of having a transparent hand so close to his personal space, however, Zubin eventually turned the volume back on.
When Bora spoke, it was as if he had been gagged the entire time the volume was off, for he immediately took a deep breath of air and his eyes bugged out like a stress toy’s. “At the risk of being muted again,” he said in an exasperated tone, “may I make an observation?”
“You may,” said Rob.
“Your instruments,” said Bora, “are indisposed.”
“No, we just got them back,” Joe corrected.
“And those new Effects?”
“We were just about to check them.”
Joe and Rob then proceeded to withdraw their jPhones from their pockets and locate their spacesaver apps. The other members of Tally Hall held back for the time being, because Joe and Rob both had guitars, and everyone knows that the world revolves around guitar players.
Joe braced himself for the weight on his shoulder as his Stratocaster materialized, already strapped. Rob, however, preferred to grip his Les Paul by the neck as it reformed, and he then put the strap over his shoulder manually. This time a few other things also appeared with the instruments. At their feet, both had a metal board with pedals, knobs, and other shiny things on it. These were called pedal boards, because pedals-knobs-and-other-shiny-things boards didn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
By their sides, both had a square screen suspended in mid-air next to them. Looking at the side of these screens, one would see they were completely flat, and yet from the front they appeared to have what looked like a hotplate stuck inside them. These screens, however, did not serve microwavable pizza, but they received sound from little magnets called pick-ups, added current to the signal to greatly increase volume, and then played said signal out of a loudspeaker.
These were called amps. A simple name for a simple device.
With one final piece of equipment left, Joe and Rob brandished them — their trusty guitar picks — from their pockets. They looked at each other; the others looked at them; and Andrew looked at the Deaf Flyer model he was clenching in his hands.
“After you,” said Rob.
Joe nodded and positioned his foot over one of the pedals. Placing his fingers on the proper frets, he strummed his guitar, and a Sound Wave emerged from the amp, a transparent mass making ripples in the air like smoke from a fire. The Sound Wave, ironically, made a sound — the deep, rich tone of an E chord.
Joe then began tapping the pedal with his foot, and the Sound Wave undulated like rolling hills. The sound of the chord changed along with the motion of the Wave, now sounding uncannily like an obese toddler trying (and failing) to pronounce “water” over and over and over. Despite that somewhat disturbing description, the sound was not unpleasant.
The Sound Wave faded away just before colliding with one of the monitor screens. When Rob conjured Sound up, however, it not only collided with a monitor screen, but also the keyboard, the ceiling, and Bora’s hologram. He hadn’t stepped on his pedal board so much as stomped on it, and the resulting Sound Wave had blasted around the room like sparklers on crack.
“Oops,” Rob muttered as the fireworks of his guitar’s Wave dispersed.
“Oops indeed!” Bora exclaimed. Some bits of Sound that nicked his hologram were still fading away into the depths of his apartment, not revealed on the projector. He walked around the keyboard and snatched something in the air. When his hand made contact with the object, the holographic system revealed the orange tie he was grabbing from a shelf in his room.
“I’m gonna get my stuff ready while you finish testing your instruments.” He picked some lint off his tie. “Don’t you guys just love all this traveling we do without sleep? I do. I like to pretend I’m the vessel of an ancient power when my hands shake from all the coffee I drink.”
“Whatever, just don’t take a plane to get here,” said Zubin.
“You could use a little more coffee, Zube.” Bora began reaching for his jPhone to switch it off. “I’ll see you guys in a bit. And Andrew…”
Andrew looked up from the figurine in his hands.
“Next time, don’t eat right before teleporting. I may very well wind up using the port that you threw up in.”
Before Andrew could again respond in an unimpressed manner, Bora vanished, leaving them all with feelings of bewilderment and slight indigestion.